Sep 19, 2023 - Politics & Policy

Tim Scott praises Reagan firing strikers when asked about historic auto walkout

Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.), a 2024 Republican presidential hopeful, speaks at an event in July. Photo: Sergio Flores/AFP via Getty Images

Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) praised then-President Reagan's firing of thousands of striking federal workers when asked Monday about the ongoing United Auto Workers strike.

Why it matters: The 2024 GOP presidential candidate offered some of the harshest criticism of any Republican White House hopeful so far when asked about the historic strike.

  • "I think Ronald Reagan gave us a great example when federal employees decided they were going to strike," Scott said Monday in Iowa during a campaign event.
  • "He said, you strike, you're fired. Simple concept to me to the extent that we can use that once again."

Flashback: In 1981, Reagan fired over 11,000 air traffic controllers who went on strike. Those were federal employees, whom the president has the power to fire.

Catch up quick: Thousands of UAW workers went on strike beginning this past week in Missouri, Ohio and Michigan.

  • This is the first time in history the UAW is targeting General Motors, Ford and Stellantis all at once.
  • Among the UAW's demands are higher wages, better benefits and certain protections regarding automakers shifting to electric vehicles.

Of note: Federal law, according to the National Labor Relations Board, prohibits workers from being fired for "participating in a protected strike or picketing against" one's employer, though not all strikes are protected.

What they're saying: Scott's campaign said his comments dealt entirely with federal workers rather than the UAW strike. The UAW comprises non-federal workers.

  • "Senator Scott has repeatedly made clear that Joe Biden shouldn't leave taxpayers on the hook for any labor deal," Matt Gorman, a campaign spokesperson for Scott, told Axios.

Scott criticized President Biden, who has dubbed himself as the "most pro-union president ever."

  • "I'm not sure if the words are bought and paid for, but certainly [Biden] has been leased by the unions," Scott said.
  • Biden last Friday urged U.S. automakers to share more of their "record profits" with striking union workers.

Meanwhile, former President Trump, a 2024 Republican presidential frontrunner, plans to deliver a speech in Detroit next week among union workers on strike instead of attending the second GOP debate.

The big picture: The percentage of American workers who are members of a union fell to a new low in 2022 despite the total number of unionized workers increasing.

  • 71% of Americans approved of labor unions in 2022, the highest mark recorded by Gallup since 1965.

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